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Armstrong, Emmet Co. begin talks

By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

Under an apparent ceasefire in their war of words, the Armstrong City Council and Emmet County Board of Supervisors set aside past differences Tuesday morning and agreed to start negotiating a new dispatching agreement.

Mayor Greg Buum, council members Adrian Hagebock and Rhett Hiney and police chief Craig Merrill met with the supervisors after sending a letter earlier this month requesting a meeting. Board of Supervisors chair Alan Madden acknowledged a July 12, 2012 invoice paid by the City of Armstrong and the city’s 30-notice dated July 4, 2012 canceling its 1983 dispatching agreement between the city and the county.

“To me, this item on the agenda (dispatching) is the item we’re dealing with,” said Madden, noting that it was separate from the law enforcement agreement between the city and county.

Sheriff Mike Martens canceled the dispatching agreement between the county and the City of Armstrong in December after Armstrong stopped paying dispatching fees mid-2012. Martens also gave the city a 60-day notice in January that he was canceling the county’s law enforcement agreement with the city. The county continues to dispatch or respond to emergency calls in Armstrong.

“To me, that contract (dispatching) has been canceled,” said Hagebock, asking if the supervisors, asking if the board was willing to work with Armstrong on a new contract. Hagebock said the city now has dispatching (Merrill said the city uses the City of Algona).

Madden and the board then offered their opinions on working with the city on a new agreement.

“I am behind getting together with the Armstrong City Council,” said Madden, adding that he wanted a win-win agreement for everyone. Madden said he wanted to start with a clean sheet of paper and that moving forward is key.

“That is very encouraging that you can do that,” said Madden, suggesting that representatives from both the county and city could meet.

Supervisor Ron Smith said he was also glad that Armstrong wanted to start on a new foot. “There’s no reason why we can’t get together,” said Smith.

Madden underscored that Sheriff Mike Martens runs his department and as an elected official is in charge, leaving the board’s position as advisory.

“As far as mandating to him what he has to do, that’s not in the rulebook,” said Madden.

Martens had other obligations scheduled for out of town Tuesday several weeks before.

Supervisor Jon Martyr agreed with the other supervisors.

“The sheriff is the one that has to be involved in this,” said Martyr. “I have sat in this building and waited for people to come but they didn’t come,” he added regarding a meeting that Armstrong representatives were unable to attend.

“He’s (Martens) the prime negotiator on the county’s part,” said Martyr.

As far as considering dispatching fees a done deal between the city and county, said Martyr, “I don’t know that the sheriff’s office and the county attorney agree with that.”

Supervisor Tim Schumacher said he agreed with most of what had been said. “We need to not be afraid to talk about whatever,” Schumacher said.

“I’m glad to see you came here too,” said supervisor Bev Juhl, adding that she agreed with Martyr regarding dispatching fees. Juhl said Martens would be willing to talk with Armstrong about dispatching.

Madden said the council had demonstrated the leadership it took to come to an equitable conclusion and that the county would make a commitment for two board members to meet with Armstrong. Martyr and Schumacher have worked on past negotiations on the issue.

Madden said he was reluctant to make specific arrangements since Martens was not around Tuesday, emphasizing that dispatching and the law enforcement agreement are two issues and need to be discussed separately.